India reports its first African Swine Fever cases, but what is it?
African swine fever virus (ASFV) is a highly contagious nucleocytoplasmic large DNA virus (NCLDV) that has a very high mortality rate in pigs. In Assam, 2800 pigs have died of African Swine Fever across 306 villages.
The state of Assam has become the epicentre of Africal Swine Fever (ASF) in India with 2800 pigs dying across 306 villages. The Centre has advised authorities in Assam to go for culling of pigs affected by the flu after thousands were found to have died from the infection in the past several weeks.
What is African Swine Fever?
African swine fever virus (ASFV) is a highly contagious nucleocytoplasmic large DNA virus (NCLDV) that results in an infection with high mortality in pigs.The illness is found in regions of Asia, Europe and Africa, and first detected in Kenya in 1909. It is different from the classical swine flu and is transmitted directly between animals or through infected meat or animal feed and has also been seen as having the potential to transmit to humans. Though there has not been any cases of human transmission yet.
In China an ASF outbreak in ongoing at the time of writing and it has already already wiped out 40% of pigs in the country.
As of now, There is no treatment or vaccine to this fever. But a team of scientists in Scotland and Spain has reported that culling and fast removal of animal carcasses are critical for the eradication of the African swine fever (ASF) in pig herds.
Professor Andy White of Heriot-Watt University and his team analysed ASF cases in Spain and Scotland to find that infection needed to occur in three ways. Through contact between susceptible and infected wild boar, through contact between susceptible wild boar and infected carcasses and via individuals that survive the initial infection, but succumb to the disease after several months.
According to their study, it may be easier to control ASF in warmer climates. “Higher temperatures lead to faster degradation of infected carcasses, which also reduces the severity of an outbreak,” Prof. White said.
The Assam Scare
With over 21 lakh pigs in the state, Assam heads the Rs 8,000 crore pork market in the Northeast and the illness could prove disastrous for the state’s meat industry.
Despite the go-ahead from the Centre, the state government will not cull the animals immediately and has implemented "biosecurity measure" which is in line with the lockdown.
Assam claims the virus has come from China just like the novel coronavirus which is wreaking havoc in the world.
Atul Bora, the animal husbandry and veterinary minister of Assam, said, “We have been asked to divide the area into zones and go for culling accordingly. The situation is quite serious since there are many pig farmers now with more than 20 lakh pigs.”
Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has asked the Veterinary and Forest Departments to work with National Pig Research Centre of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) to draw a broad roadmap to save the state's pig population from ASF.
CM Sonowal held a meeting with the doctors of ICAR and Regional Institute of Livestock Entrepreneurship Management (RILEM) and discussed in detail the magnitude of the fever and strategy of the state to mitigate the problem.
During the meeting, Chief Minister Sonowal also asked the Veterinary and Animal Husbandry Department to do a 'threat-mapping' and undertake containment measures across the state. He also asked the department to find out the total number of entrepreneurs engaged in piggery sector and their financial liability so that government can take pragmatic steps to announce a bailout package to save the state from further economic stress.